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"It made me realise the impact that he's had on so many people" - Jason Ferguson tells FFT all about making 'Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In'

Sir Alex Ferguson
(Image credit: Pitch International)

"I remember one time, a guy came up to my brother Darren and gave him a card," says Jason Ferguson. Jason is recalling May 2018, when his father, Sir Alex Ferguson, suffered a brain haemorrhage and underwent emergency surgery. This is where FourFourTwo begins with Jason for our chat - it's also where the new documentary, 'Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In' starts off, too.

"The card basically said that 10 years ago, this guy had had a brain haemorrhage himself," Jason remembers. "My dad had sent said him a letter: he always said that if he could return the favour, he would. So he gave Darren this card and just said, "Wish him all the best.'"

When the news filtered through that Sir Alex was fighting for his life, a wave of best wishes, love and support was sent to the Fergusons. Jason tells us how touched he was by the likes of Manchester City fans unfurling a banner reading, "Football aside, get well Fergie" and Arsene Wenger wishing his former rival well in his farewell speech at Arsenal. Sir Alex is a man, after all, who impacted on so many people's lives.

At its core, this documentary is about these personal connections that Sir Alex Ferguson has made in his life and the moments that made him the man he is today. As Jason explains to us, it's a film about a football manager - but the sport almost takes a backseat at times. 

"The documentary process started in February 2016, where we started doing audio interviews," Jason tells us. "The film is about a life, a career... but you know, for me, it's about memories and about family. My core intention was to make a film that wasn't about football - and how he did what he did, as opposed to a series of goals and trophy lifts."

After the brain haemorrhage, Jason says his dad was worried that his memories may have been affected. Sir Alex remembers his life incredibly clearly in the film though, as he traces his life back to his beginnings in Govan, Glasgow: so clearly, in fact, that Jason even laughs about how he remembered nine of the eleven starting players of a Rangers game in the early 1960s. 

"I remember the night before we did the first interview, we didn't know what the style of the film was going to be," Jason says. "I said, 'Tomorrow is about painting a picture.' I went with the first question and he said, 'No, no - I know exactly what I'm going to say.' He just spoke for 20 minutes and gave a complete picture of the world he grew up in as a young boy."

Jason ended up with 70 hours worth of audio from chatting to his dad. There's plenty that fans of Manchester United or Aberdeen won't know about the man they sung the name of on the terraces - there was even aspects that were news to Jason.

Sir Alex Ferguson

(Image credit: Sean Pollock)

Sir Alex's time playing for Rangers, for example, came to an end after the 1969 Scottish Cup final, where he was to blame for a goal. While Ferguson has mentioned the time in his autobiography, though, the documentary goes into detail about that fallout, how fans at the time were unhappy that his wife, Cathy, was a Catholic and how he sought revenge upon Rangers as a manager of Aberdeen against Rangers in a cup final.

"The main thing was that I didn't realise the impact of his experience at Rangers," Jason says. "It happened before I was born. You know, when I ask him after he has the rant about the cup final, was it about being the best or was it about beating Rangers... I didn't know the answer."

"I think in terms of his professional life, in general, most people only look at his through the lens of Manchester United. And even then, people think his whole time there was just success. I don't think Aberdeen is ever factored into the general perception of what his career was. And then going further back, I don't think there's really any attention to his playing time. But this was never going to be a film about Manchester United."

Of course, there's plenty of United stories along the way, though. Difficult selection decisions early at his time at Old Trafford are talked about, while one story about Eric Cantona turning up to a party in a casual suit, only for his manager to remark, "Now that's what you call style," is recalled by those who were there. Fittingly, Sir Alex's return to Old Trafford as a guest in September 2018, after recovering from surgery, is an emotional place for the film to end.

'Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In' is coming out at a fitting time, too, just as lockdown seems to be lifting. Many people have lost loved ones in the last year or at least come close, bringing extra resonance to what the Ferguson family went through three years ago. And let's not forget, Fergie is a key figure for so many people who have never met him.

"One night I couldn't sleep and I went on social media," Jason recalls of the immediate aftermath after his father's brain haemorrhage. "I was so overwhelmed by the support. It made me realise the impact that he's had on so many people."

Now, those people will get to learn more about the moments that defined Sir Alex.

"Everyone thinks they know who he is. I hope that this film gives a greater insight into who he actually is."

Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In is in UK cinemas from 27 May and on Amazon Prime Video from 29 May.

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